Cholera is an infection of the intestines, it has a very short incubation time between one to five days –usually two days and causes severe diarrhoea. It is caused by bacteria known as Vibro Cholerae, and is caused by drinking contaminated water or eating food which has been prepared by people who are carrying the disease, who haven’t washed their hands properly.
It is transmitted by the bacteria being excreted in the faeces, and subsequently into the water supply. Bacteria will also be present on the hands and if not washed properly transmitted onto food.
Are initially mild stomach pains accompanied with normal diarrhoea, sometimes a mild temperature occurs but no vomiting. This rapidly progresses into vomiting and severe diarrhoea which goes on for a number of hours, the watery diarrhoea looks milky and you can loose up to a litre of fluid an hour this way, it is this fluid loss that can be very serious. Children and the elderly are at highest risk of developing severe dehydration requiring hospitalisation and intravenous fluids (a drip).
Needs to be prompt and is usually a matter of replacement of the fluids which have been lost, and most mild cases of cholera make a good recovery, Antibiotics may be given to help with symptoms and reduce the diarrhoea. Severe dehydration can results in confusion, muscle cramps, flaccid skin and a croaky voice. In children they may well suffer from convulsions. Clean water and re- hydration salts are the most important elements.
There is a vaccine available although for the majority of holiday makers basic food and water hygiene precautions are sufficient to prevent infection. If you are an enthusiastic backpacker visiting areas which have poor or limited medical provisions it would be advisable to be vaccinated. Cholera is very common in Asia and Africa and densely populated regions with poor sanitation.
Please Note: The information provided here should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A medical practitioner should always be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions.
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